Geert Wilders and England
Personally I am glad he was not allowed to enter England. It is a mistake to think that this is a matter of free speech. He has had every opportunity to vent his spleen and he has not sat still. There is no reason, after having taken account of his meagre and unhelpful opinions, that we should have to hear them again and again in every available situation and in every available pose. After all they can be found all over the internet. Once his opinions have been heard and found wanting. It is perfectly legitimate to choose not to hear them again: A father should silence a whingeing and spoilt child.
The possibility of an open society is all that separates us from the rather cruel anmal within us; the texture and contruction of such a society is fragile and we should preserve it without compromising it. So everyone must have the right to say what they feel is right. Perhaps part of the real problem of free speech is instituted by one of our most precious institutions, the idea of a consitution enshrining the rights and duties of members of a society. The problem is that every gamerule automatically generates the potential for absurd behaviour within the fringes of its reach. Having a constitution is, in general, a very good thing, but it creates these anomalies whereby we apparently have to tolerate the boorisch opinions of the thoughtless, the misguided and the intolerant, vented again and again.
As John Rawls argues in his Theory of Justice (1972 & 1999) we have to tolerate the intolerant within a society striving towards a sense of fair justice. We have to give them their say. We also have to respect our institutions when trying to convince those who deviate from an idea of the fair and the just that their ways are unhelpful in promoting that kind of society. To achieve this a constitution is strangely enough rather unhelpful because it is sensitive to the absurdities possible in the letter of the law. A system where things are decided on the basis of precedent, the reasonable has to prevail eventually. Each case has to be taken on its own merits. This is not to say that the absence of a consitution is always good. But it helps in these cases.
I also welcome the fact that the Dutch state is putting Wilders on Trial. Of course both events give Wilders rather too much publicity than is good for him, but in the end we have to allow our institutions to exercise their powers and mechanisms. And this is a worthy cause. If those institutions deal with the issues properly and reasonably, the publicity he now gets will eventually wear off and redirect itself to more helpful concerns.
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